Jobe draws crowd with 'electric' mound session

February 17th, 2024

LAKELAND, Fla. -- A storm system lumbering across Florida prompted the Tigers to move up their Saturday morning workout and could wash them out entirely on Sunday, not that anyone in chilly Michigan needs to offer any sympathy. Still, if anyone around Tigertown was feeling the chill of the cold front coming through, they might have found some lingering warmth from the heat that top pitching prospect brought to his bullpen session a day earlier.

It won’t force Jobe to the big leagues; manager A.J. Hinch already made it clear that he won’t make the Opening Day roster. But Jobe also made it clear that he won’t be taking it easy this spring in his first Major League camp as the Tigers’ No. 3 prospect -- and MLB Pipeline’s No. 2 right-handed pitching prospect -- prepares for what could be a platform season to put him on Detroit’s doorstep.

“Is he 17? He looks like it,” joked Carson Kelly, who caught Jobe’s session. “But he’s got a really good arm. It’s electric, that’s for sure.

“And he has a plan, which is great. Younger guys that come into camp, they might be a little starstruck in big league camp and stuff. But he held his composure well. I really liked what I saw.”

Kelly wasn’t the only one paying attention. Matt Manning turned to Jobe after finishing his session on a nearby mound. Fellow former first-round Draft pick Casey Mize, who also threw on Friday, has been watching Jobe all week. By the time Jobe threw his final pitches, several fellow Tigers pitchers were behind the mound watching each throw, then checking the analytic readouts.

It's the same type of support Mize, Manning and other Tigers pitchers provided each other on their way up.

“He’s really impressive, man,” Mize said. “I mean, I know it’s a big arm and crazy spin, but nice and easy, just laying them in there, hitting the mitt. I know he doesn’t walk many guys. He’s a strong guy and I think the world of him. I think he’s going to be really good. He already is really good.”

Jobe’s high-spin, biting slider was there. His fastball had easy velocity, seemingly darting out of his hand at the end of a smooth, fluid delivery.

“He turned it on toward the end a little bit more -- more game speed, which is electric,” Kelly said. “That’s really good stuff.”

Jobe wasn’t just throwing hard. He was spotting those pitches, too, trying to hit the corners of the zone as the cutout of a batter stood in the box.

Jobe was in Minor League camp last year, an effort by the Tigers to have him focus on his own season following a difficult first pro campaign. That spring was cut short by a back injury that delayed his season debut until mid-June.

The promising right-hander made the most of his half-season, posting a 2.81 ERA, a 0.98 WHIP and 84 strikeouts to only six walks over 16 starts, culminating with six scoreless innings, six strikeouts and zero walks in his Double-A debut for Erie on Sept. 17. Jobe didn’t walk a batter over his final 30 innings, then went 3-1 with a 2.87 ERA across four starts in the Arizona Fall League. His slider was nasty, complemented by a changeup he honed during his time sidelined.

“I focused more on training smarter after that injury, rather than harder, really focusing on areas to keep myself healthy rather than trying to go into the weight room and move a ton of weight,” Jobe said. “That was probably the biggest adjustment for me.”

Jobe is no longer a lanky teenager; his leg strength particularly stands out when he’s on the mound. He got ahead in his offseason throwing, tossing two bullpen sessions a week before throwing live batting practice last weekend.

He’ll get to face Tigers hitters in camp when live batting practice begins next week. Those sessions have sometimes been a springboard for pitchers to get momentum before games, at least to get feedback for what hitters are seeing.

Whether it’s a preview of Jobe facing big league hitters in a real game by year’s end remains to be seen.

“It’s easy to sit here and say I want to be a big leaguer,” Jobe said. “I think everyone out here would like to be a big leaguer this year. But, obviously, there’s some stuff that goes into that. I have to do my part, and then we just have to see what happens. But that would be pretty cool, for sure.”